PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee is calling on the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) to take action amid ongoing disruptions to its bus service.
In a letter written to RIPTA’s board of directors on Oct. 13, McKee criticized the agency for how the disruptions are affecting Providence students.
“Every day Providence parents anxiously wait until 6 a.m. to see if their child will have bus transportation to school,” McKee wrote. “This is unacceptable and unmanageable on several levels.” (Read McKee’s full letter below.)
RIPTA provides busing for many Providence public school students. Since the start of the school year, many routes have been delayed or canceled due to what RIPTA is calling an “unprecedented labor shortage.” The agency says it’s short about 30 drivers and has been struggling to recruit new hires, despite holding monthly job fairs.
McKee claims in the letter that RIPTA knew it wouldn’t be able to meet its requirements for school transportation before students returned.
“The Governor believes the current situation is unacceptable and he has serious concerns regarding the agency’s ability to deliver on promises to address these PPSD transportation needs,” said Matt Sheaff, a spokesperson for McKee. “At the Governor’s direction, his office has been engaged in discussions to explore the transfer of these school transportation services to a private provider.”
RIPTA is a quasi-public agency which has its own Board of Directors and does not report directly to the governor.
RIPTA management and the labor union are currently in contract negotiations. McKee has requested that RIPTA’s board “take an active role in making sure that the temporary solution is remedied now.”
In a statement to 12 News, RIPTA said it’s received the governor’s letter and appreciates his input.
“We can affirm that RIPTA is committed to moving as quickly and thoughtfully as possible to finding a workable solution to this situation, knowing that we may be dealing with a driver shortage for some time,” the statement said. “We believe that we are all in agreement that having a solid plan that allows our system to accommodate school trips regularly will benefit the Providence Public Schools and also allow us to equitably serve all passengers.”
Read: McKee’s letter to RIPTA